Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005. His articles have appeared in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Soul, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, and Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in one of Connecticut’s largest news dailies. He holds an MS degree and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside on the East Coast.
Yesterday’s brilliant blue sky turned to a canopy of crackling gray over the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament today. The piazza was fairly empty early in the morning, awaiting the first arrivals coming to pray the Rosary for Mother Angelica and then to pay their respects.
Four people had already arrived, stopping to pray before the statue of Divino Niño in the piazza. An elderly woman and a young teen knelt, while behind them a young man and, several feet away, a woman stood in deep thought or prayer.
But inside the shrine, pews had already nearly filled. A reverential silence eloquently expressed the love people had for the Blessed Sacrament and at this very particular time for Mother Angelica, a woman who had brought many to that love for Jesus. Some sat; some knelt in prayer.
A young man in a gray suite and young woman in black sweater and white mantilla knelt side by side on the marble floor, their gazes fixed on the altar and the body of Mother Angelica on a catafalque.
Tall candles stood like an honor guard on either side of the catafalque.
Behind Mother and in the sanctuary itself, but close to the Communion rail, a statue of Our Blessed Mother stood high atop a tall pedestal. Here, appearing as the Immaculate Heart, it was as if Our Lady came forward from the side of her Son Jesus in the tabernacle to welcome Mother.
In this image, Mary’s arms are extended to distribute graces, as she said in one of her apparitions, and as she unquestionably did to Mother during her lifetime.
Yet this time it’s as if she was also opening her arms in that gesture of welcome to Mother Angelica, ready to embrace her as a loving mother would. And at the same time our Blessed Mother’s open arms seemed to be saying, “Behold Mother Angelica, who so loved my Son and me.”
How appropriate that at this time Father Miguel led everyone in praying the Rosary. How could we not remember that Mother Angelica herself led us so many times, for so many years, in praying the Rosary? And how doing so she brought so many closer to Mary and to Jesus.
And here was Mother again, central to the Rosary, as we prayed it for her. Behind her, centered on the altar, the image of a pelican feeding its young with its own blood – a very Eucharistic symbol – seemed at that moment to be another reminder of how Mother Angelica fed us with the food of loving the Rosary and loving the Eucharistic Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
Surely these became providential signals from heaven itself.
So did something else after the Rosary, as people silently and ever so slowly filed up to the catafalque to kneel at prie-dieux on either side. Friars on either side touched rosaries and holy cards handed to them to Mother Angelica’s hands.
Surely, we all were getting an early start on what will be third-class relics, considering what Pope Francis said when told of Mother Angelica’s death. Pointing to heaven, he said, “She’s in heaven!”